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* * On the Doorstep * * Part 3: Escargot served at sunset

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Sep 21 2012, 3:13am

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* * On the Doorstep * * Part 3: Escargot served at sunset Can't Post

This covers to the end of the chapter.

Now the dwarves, having apparently given up finding the secret door, begin to grumble about the passage of time while they sit there. And some start to think that Mr. Invisible Baggins ought to pass through the Front Gate and spy things out for them. This, of course, Bilbo overhears, and finds upsetting. He has a fitful night, and the following day he gets a "queer feeling" that he was "waiting" - but, for what?

1. Is this "queer feeling" mere wishful hoping on Bilbo's part, or a reaction to the possibility that he would be made to do some spying; or is it that Bilbo truly is prescient?

Bilbo watches the westering sun, and goes to the opening of the bay - when suddenly, behind him on the stone, he hears a sharp noise, and sees a huge thrush cracking open a snail for supper.

We have not heard of the thrush before now! The previous birds have been all black, unfriendly crows. This bird is new, and is engaged in an activity which is typical of its kind. Rateliff states:

"Out of the many thrush species native to England, the Lonely Mountain thrush is clearly a song thrush (T. philomelos), a species particularly noted for its diet of snails and its habit of crushing their shells on a rock. Many song thrushes in fact choose a favorite rock as their 'snail anvil' and return to it again and again, making the clue on Thror's Map a plausible application of real-world avian behavior to the fantasy story. Song thrushes are also, as the name suggests, noted singers, whose voices can carry a half-mile, and often hold their head to one side as if listening..." (HoH, p. 490)

Rateliff calls this bird "an extremely minor character without whom the major events of the story could not occur".

2. Do you agree with Rateliff? Did the thrush, or did it not, have some inherited knowledge of what was written in the Moon-letters? If it did, what assurance did it have that the Moon-letters had been read? And if not, how did it know to grab a meal right at the sunset hour? And in that place? Would it have done this, had Bilbo and the dwarves not been there? Or was this bird's action entirely coincidental?

"Stand by the grey stone..." Your turn! What other Moon-letters could have been written on that Map, and what might they have said? Could other birds or animals have been "assigned" certain "duties", depending on the time of year or who was present?

Now the lightbulb appears above Bilbo's head. He hails the dwarves, who come running or are quickly hauled up (except for Bombur). After the hobbit explains that what was written in the Moon-letters has come to pass, they watch the sun...and watch...and watch, as it slowly sinks. It goes behind a cloud, and all but Bilbo lose heart. Then - lo! A single ray of sun does a Stonehenge impression, the thrush does a soprano solo, and with a crack a flake of rock falls and reveals a hole.

So what do the dwarves do? Why, they push. Push? Against the door? With a keyhole suddenly made visible, their first inclination is to push?

3. At this point, are you wishing the dragon would fly out and make an end of them? Why on earth has Tolkien made his dwarves so seemingly stubbornly stupid?

But Bilbo calls for Thorin and the key. He has to shout at Thorin to make him comprehend that he's got to pull out the key on its chain, and use it. It would appear that Thorin has never associated the idea of a "keyhole" with "key belonging to map with the word 'keyhole' on it". But he does insert the key into the hole, turn it, it snaps, the sun sinks, the moon disappears, and it is evening.

Note of interest: in the original story, no key is produced with the map; instead Gandalf finds a ring of keys in the Trolls' cave, and saying it may be important gives it to Thorin. When the light shines on the key-hole, Bilbo says "A key...we need a key", at which point he remembers that Gandalf gave Thorin the ring of keys. Thorin steps up, inserts the only key on the ring small enough to fit the hole, and it turns.

4. Is this a plausible story-line? Would it "work" better than the final version?

Now that the door is unlocked, it can be opened by pushing, and "A door five feet high and three broad" is outlined.

5. The runes state "five feet high the door and three may walk abreast". Are the runes in error, or do they refer to the passageway inside being wide enough for three, not necessarily the door into the passageway?

6. The last sentence reads: "It seemed as if darkness flowed out like a vapour from the hole in the mountain-side, and deep darkness in which nothing could be seen lay before their eyes, a yawning mouth leading in and down." Is this awesome imagery, or what?

Thank you for lurking and/or participating this week, and for letting me have some fun with this chapter! What other comments, queries, and observations would you like to make?


"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

(This post was edited by dernwyn on Sep 24 2012, 1:29am)

Subject User Time
* * On the Doorstep * * Part 3: Escargot served at sunset dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Sep 21 2012, 3:13am
    The old, old thrush Auraran Send a private message to Auraran Sep 22 2012, 7:29pm
        Understanding speech dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Sep 24 2012, 1:26am
    We come to it at last demnation Send a private message to demnation Sep 23 2012, 3:31am
        Yes, I'm glad that dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Sep 24 2012, 1:33am
    "The moon was shining sulkily, sador Send a private message to sador Sep 23 2012, 4:14pm
        Hey - no fair dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Sep 24 2012, 1:54am
            metaphysical storytelling telain Send a private message to telain Sep 25 2012, 3:27pm
                During every other phase of the moon Solicitr Send a private message to Solicitr Sep 25 2012, 3:37pm


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